Training Camp is a week or so old. The Eagles look like a pretty good team. The defense has won its share of battles, but the offense is still the side of the ball with the most firepower. Shady McCoy has looked flat out terrific, as a runner and receiver. It is always a good sign when your best player shines in practice.
Malcolm Jenkins looks like the real deal. There is no question that the safety had to be addressed after last year. The team moved aggressively in free agency and landed Malcolm Jenkins. They felt he fit the team on the field and had the kind of leadership skills that could help as well. Jenkins is having a terrific camp so far. He’s made plays in the passing game when the ball is thrown his way. He has covered well, both in man and zone coverage. Jenkins looks like he’s been in this defense for several years instead of just several months. He has been everything the coaches hoped.
Jenkins is also helping as a leader. He is a good influence on both Earl Wolff and Nate Allen. Jenkins is helping Wolff to figure things out. Young players need guidance since safety is a position where knowledge is so critical. You must see the right things and make the right decisions. Instantly. Being able to learn from a successful veteran can really help. Allen doesn’t need help with that side of things. Jenkins is pushing him to play more aggressively. We won’t know how that is going until we see Allen in a preseason game with full hitting and tackling.
I know a lot of fans wanted the Eagles to go after T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd in free agency. It sure looks like the Eagles made the right call. Byrd had offseason back surgery and is working his way into the lineup. Ward was arrested this spring for misdemeanor assault and has had to deal with that situation. Those guys are very talented players, but Kelly wants more than that. He wants the right guys. Jenkins has been a perfect fit in the locker room and there is value to that.
The presence of Jenkins is one of the reasons I feel optimistic about the defense. He’s not going to be Brian Dawkins, Pt. 2, but he doesn’t have to be that. Just being an effective, reliable FS will do this defense a world of good.
One thing I didn’t say much about is the O-line. It sounds like Allen Barbre is having a good camp. Jimmy Bama has praised his pass blocking. We haven’t heard much about Lane Johnson at all. He’s running with the #2 offense so I assume he’s getting the best of whoever he goes up against. We’re pretty clueless about the rest of the backup OL. And that is an important group. We need someone from Dennis Kelly-Matt Tobin-Andrew Gardner to step up and show they can be the first guy off the bench during the year.
Outsiders who watch the Eagles practice seem to come away impressed and that’s a good sign. It doesn’t sound like the team has the appearance of a juggernaut, but this is just Year 2 for Chip Kelly. I didn’t anticipate this team being an elite Super Bowl contender this season. I had them a notch below that. I certainly hope I’m wrong.
We’ll start to get a feel for the team on Friday night when they take on the Bears.
2. When Donovan McNabb left Philly five years ago, I said that within 10 years, all the bitterness, ill will and frustration Eagles fans felt regarding the greatest QB in Eagles history would be gone, and he’d be able to return here and finally be appreciated for all his accomplishments instead of being remembered for his deficiencies and chronic lack of connection with Eagles fans. It sure happened with Randall. When he left in 1995, he wasn’t popular at all. But today he’s revered here and rightfully so. For Donovan, that 10-year period would have ended in 2019. But every time he opens his mouth, he resets the clock. We’re now looking at 2024. At the earliest.
Totally agree. Donovan has been his own worst enemy in the last few years. He says things that range from dumb to merely awkward. I hope he gets into a comfort zone in his life so that we can get back to the point where we think of him fondly. I’ve got a lot of great memories from his days as Eagles QB. It would be nice to enjoy them.
9. Seth Joyner has never even been a Hall of Fame finalist, but he absolutely should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Think about it – 52 sacks, 24 interceptions, 26 forced fumbles. Joyner is the only player in NFL history with 50 sacks, 20 interceptions and 20 forced fumbles. In fact, he’s the only player just with 50 sacks and 20 INTs. Joyner was unquestionably one of the most productive playmaking outside linebackers in NFL history, not to mention a force against the run on one of the NFL’s best defenses over a period of a number of years. Joyner and Eric Allen have both been victimized by Reggie White’s legacy. But as gifted as Reggie was, that great defense was more than one person. Joyner and E.A. should both be enshrined in Canton. That Joyner hasn’t even become a serious candidate is a disgrace.
It is sad that there is so little appreciation for Seth Joyner on the national level. Part of that is due to the fact he was a 4-3 OLB. Those players have a tough time making it into the HOF. Derrick Brooks just got elected, but he has a shiny Super Bowl ring and also spent his entire career with one team.
Based on just stats, Joyner deserves to be in just as much if not more than Brooks. But Brooks was the face of the Bucs defense for 14 years. He was rock solid off the field and a great team leader. Joyner could be a firecracker. Not everyone was fond of being around him, especially when he got into a bad mood.
If Jeff Fisher had taken over the Eagles in 1991 instead of Rich Kotite and Joyner had finished his career in Philly, you wonder what kind of a difference that would have made. Kotite brought out the worst in Seth. And there was no way he was going to stay in Philly and play for Kotite without getting big bucks, which Norman Braman didn’t want to pay. So Joyner went off to Arizona to reunite with Buddy. Joyner played well, but that falls under the category of “If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”. The Cards were a mediocre team back then and they got little media attention. How many people know that Seth actually played some Safety for the Cards due to some injuries? If Urlacher had done that in Chicago, it would have been talked about for years.
25. One more Hall of Fame note: Eight Pro Bowls seems to be the magic number for offensive linemen to reach the Hall of Fame, and Jason Peters is at six. Of the 27 offensive linemen to make eight Pro Bowls who are eligible for Hall induction, 21 are in the Hall of Fame. The way Peters played last year coming off those Achilles surgeries and with no sign of slowing down, I think Peters does make his way to Canton one day.
Peters needs a couple of more years, but he certainly has a realistic chance to be a HOF’er. Heck, a few more SNF games with Cris Collinsworth gushing about him might just do the trick.
Rather than going writer by writer, let’s focus on some players.
WR B.J. Cunningham
Jimmy Bama - “Wide receiver BJ Cunningham isn’t projected by many to make the 53-man roster, but he has had a strong camp. Cunningham doesn’t have one trait in particular that will wow you, but his overall game is solid. It will be interesting to see if he can almost force the Eagles to keep him if he has strong performances in the preseason games.“
Sheil Kapadia – “The catch of the day goes to B.J. Cunningham. Tremendous effort on a 50/50 ball downfield against Marsh. He ended up coming down with the pass from Barkley for a touchdown.“
Brandon Lee Gowton – “Matt Barkley airs it out deep (40 yards) along the sideline to B.J. Cunningham for a TD. Cunningham did a good job of keeping his body under control while high-pointing the ball with Curtis Marsh tightly contesting the play. Good throw from Barkley to let his WR make the play.“
I was a big fan of Cunningham’s coming out of Michigan State. He wasn’t the fastest player, but was a highly productive receiver for Kirk Cousins. Cunningham was tough and physical. He had good RAC skills.
It would be great to see Cunningham have a strong showing in preseason games and really push for a roster spot.
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#Eagles kicker competition: Alex Henery 5 of 5 from 38, 43, 48, 43, 53. Carey Spear 4 of 5. Wide right on 48 yarder.
Jimmy Bama – “Many of you have asked about DE Joe Kruger. I had a good opportunity to watch him rush the passer today, and came away thoroughly unimpressed. The third team right tackle was handling him with ease.”
Jeff McLane – “Rookie tackle Kevin Graf has struggled in pass protection, but looks better as a run blocker. He drove defensive end Joe Kruger into the ground at one point.”
Kruger sounds like a long shot for the roster based on comments from the last couple of days. He still has upside, but needs a lot of technique work. Kruger bulked up to the 290 range this spring and it could be that he’s struggling to play with the extra weight. He could try playing lighter or the coaches could hope he stays big and is more effective next summer.
Kruger’s best hope is to come alive in the preseason games. Some guys thrive in games more than practice.
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WR Josh Huff
Sheil Kapadia – “12:35 - During the 3-on-2 portion, Josh Huff delivers a great effort on a jump ball down the left sideline, but Curtis Marsh breaks it up. One thing that stands out with Huff: the way he competes for the football. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the preseason. (later) Huff makes a great adjustment on a ball from Sanchez downfield. The crowd goes nuts, and the offense starts moving to the new line of scrimmage. But Kelly calls it back. Apparently he didn’t have both feet in bounds.“
Brandon Lee Gowton – “Sanchez to Josh Huff 25 yards or so down the field along the sideline. Great throw by Sanchez and tough catch made by a leaping Huff. Roc Carmichael was in tight coverage. Huff made sure to get his feet in-bounds. One of the best plays I’ve seen Huff make in camp.“
Huff is playing like a normal rookie WR. He’s up and down. That seems almost bad when you compare him to Matthews, but you can’t expect every rookie to be lights out. I can’t wait to see Huff in action. He could thrive in preseason games because he is so tough and so competitive.
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WR Quron Pratt
Jeff McLane – “Quron Pratt has made a number of highlight reel catches in camp. G.J. Kinne threw to his back shoulder and Pratt was able to snag a pass that was slightly behind him. Pratt probably won’t make the Eagles roster, but he should catch on elsewhere.”
Sheil Kapadia – “Undrafted free agent Quron Pratt makes a fantastic diving grab while keeping his feet in bounds on a back shoulder throw near the sideline.“
Brandon Lee Gowton – “Quron Pratt records a diving catch along the sideline. Pratt has made a few select really impressive catches during camp.“
At only 5-11, 195 Pratt lacks the size the Eagles prefer in a WR. But he has the kind of skills they do like. He can work in the slot or outside. He is quick and can get open in tight space. He has good hands and can make tough catches. Pratt also is a solid blocker. He’s more of a practice squad target for now, but has some potential.
• Najee Goode had nice coverage on several occasions today. On at least two of the rare occasions a ball was thrown to Jordan Matthews and he didn’t make the catch, it was because Goode was in good position when Matthews ran through his zone.
• Bradley Fletcher, playing with the second team today, had a nice afternoon. He picked off Nick Foles on a play in which Arrelious Benn slipped, and he had blanket coverage on a deep ball to Damaris Johnon in 1-on-1′s. One thing to note with Fletcher is that he is a very physical corner. That’s generally considered a good thing, but at times last season it worked against him. In 2013, Fletcher had six pass interference penalties. With the league expected to crack down on contact more than five yards down the field in 2014, Fletcher’s handsy nature could be an issue.
Jimmy also has plenty of praise for WR Jordan Matthews, but as he points out…that’s almost gotten boring because he seems to play well every day.
1:19 - During one-on-ones, Ifeanyi Momah separates from Brandon Boykin on a go route and makes the grab on a beautiful throw from Nick Foles. I still don’t think Momah makes the squad, but clearly he has improved.
1:57 - Boykin vs. Momah again. This time, Boykin’s all over him, racing ahead in hopes of an interception. But Momah shoves him from behind to make sure that doesn’t happen.
One of the biggest disappointments last year was that Momah didn’t play like a big WR. He wasn’t athletic either, but the one thing I hoped for sure was that he would play like a 6-7, 240 guy. You just didn’t see that. This summer he is more confident and more aggressive. And more physical. That’s a good sign.
1. Beau Allen keeps flashing in these situations. He more than held his own against center Jason Kelce and actually pulled off a spin move past Josh Andrews. Of the undrafted rookies, I’ve heard the Eagles think Andrews, who plays center and guard, may have the most potential.
2. Rookie tackle Kevin Graf has struggled in pass protection, but looks better as a run blocker. He drove defensive end Joe Kruger into the ground at one point.
3. There was good action when the outside linebackers joined the drill. Trent Cole gave tackle Andrew Gardner one of his patented step-over moves. Connor Barwin’s bull rush knocked Graff back on his heels. Travis Long used an outside-in move to slip past rookie Karim Barton.
– If someone were to ask which three players have looked the best at camp I would probably say, “LeSean McCoy, LeSean McCoy, LeSean McCoy.” Last year, it was DeSean Jackson that sizzled. McCoy looks like he may be in the best shape of his career. One of the things I miss most about Lehigh was how close the reporters were permitted to get to the action. I love to hear the chatter. Reporters could get fairly close at the Linc and during one McCoy run you could hear him saying to defenders as he went past them, “Bye, so long, woooooooo …”
Love the info on Shady. You want your best players to shine in practice (insert AI joke here).
More positive talk about Allen. Like that.
Graf didn’t impress me as a pass protector at USC. He’s not very athletic. I do wonder if pro coaching can help him a bit. I didn’t think too much of Matt Tobin coming out of college and he played much better than I ever expected.
• Practice ends on a high note: Foles connects with Brent Celek for a touchdown in the front right corner of the endzone. It was an impressive throw and catch because Connor Barwin was draped over Celek in coverage. That’s a much better end to practice than the one that ended last week on a missed field goal kick from Carey Spear.
I am curious to see if Foles starts to play better when Riley Cooper is back and he’s got his normal set of weapons. It isn’t that Foles has looked bad. He just hasn’t been lights out.
The Eagles currently have 4 QBs on the roster. They are Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and GJ Kinne. Seems simple enough.
Unless you count Brad Smith. He was a star QB at Missouri and has played some QB in the NFL.
And there is rookie LB Marcus Smith. He was a star QB in high school. Urban Meyer once saw him as the next Tim Tebow, if you can believe that. Rookie TE Trey Burton went to Florida to replace Tebow. He did play some QB for the Gators, but ended up getting moved around.
Oh yeah, rookie wideout Josh Huff was a QB in high school. Some guy named Chip Kelly brought him to Oregon as an offensive weapon. Huff started at RB, then became a WR.
Brandon Boykin split time at QB and CB when he was a prep star. So did Jaylen Watkins.
And we can’t forget Lane Johnson. That big son of a gun was a QB in junior college.
Is this by design? The answer is probably a mixture of yes and no. Chip Kelly touched on this in his press conference today when Les Bowen was asking about Josh Huff and his background. Kelly made the point that a lot of high schools put their best players at QB. Those guys then go on to play a variety of positions in college. Even some college QBs end up switching positions in the pros.
I think Kelly likes adding former QBs to the roster, but I see that as more of a bonus than a requirement. You don’t want to go around loading up on ex-QBs for the sake of it. The reason you like them is for their athletic ability. It doesn’t hurt that they often are pretty smart and have a good understanding of the game. Even at lower levels, the QB has a lot to think about on a given play.
Kelly wants smart, talented athletes. Find enough of those guys and you will have your share of ex-QBs.
Kelly didn’t offer much beyond that in terms of Tucker pushing Chris Polk. Kelly did say the team liked what they saw from Tucker last summer and he seemed to be genuinely praising him. Sometimes you can tell when a coach is trying to be positive and other times he is being genuine.
If the team feels confident in Tucker, that may have been another factor that made them comfortable in trading Bryce Brown.
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Kelly had good things to say about WR Arrelious Benn, although the practice reports have been mixed. Some praise him, while others are not as impressed. I’m looking forward to seeing Benn in the upcoming preseason game. I liked him a lot coming out of college so I’m curious to see if he’s making a strong push for the roster or if he’s treading water.
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There were some Eagles ties to the Hall of Fame ceremonies last night. Claude Humphrey was a DE for the Eagles from 1978-81. He gave almost a 30-minute speech. PE.com has the video.
Eagles nemesis Michael Strahan was also inducted. In his speech, Strahan talked about former Eagles RT Jon Runyan.
Strahan just called former #Eagles Jon Runyan 6-9, 350 pounds of twisted steel and no sex appeal. Beautiful! #NFL
Strahan talked about the many battles that he and Runyan had. Strahan admitted that he didn’t win them all. Runyan was on hand for the festivities and laughed at some of the barbs that came his way.
I was really happy for Strahan to mention Runyan. They faced each other from 2000-2007. There were also a couple of playoff games. They hated each other on gamedays, but also probably had a lot of respect for the other guy. Strahan was a great player. Runyan was one of the best RTs of his era.
As much as I hate Strahan, he gave a great speech. He talked about former players and told good stories.
For the third consecutive practice, a player in the Eagles’ defensive secondary flashed. Today it was free agent acquisition Nolan Carroll, who had an impressive diving interception. Before we commence with the Carroll love, there are two important disclaimers to note:
1) Like we noted previously with Jordan Matthews, Nolan Carroll is running with the second team. Therefore, he’s not seeing the same level of competition as Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, who are typically facing the first team offense.
2) While Carroll has had an inordinate number of pass breakups, he did not have an interception until today. Some of those chances have been outright drops, like today, when he had a chance to pick off two additional passes. Pass breakups are good, but it would be preferable, obviously, if Carroll could convert those opportunities into turnovers.
Still, what Carroll has shown so far has been very impressive. In OTAs and minicamp, when defensive backs are not allowed to jam receivers, the advantage is blatantly slanted toward the offense. Even then, Carroll did a great job breaking up passes. Now that the pads are on and the DBs are allowed to get their hands on receivers, the secondary has looked better to an obvious degree. The defense as a group has in turn also gotten their hands on a lot of footballs, but none more than Carroll. He has been a pass breakup machine.
At the end of the 2014 season, Bradley Fletcher will be a free agent. In 2015, Cary Williams will count for over $8 million against the salary cap. Carroll is a legitimate candidate to start this season, but even if he can’t crack the starting lineup, he’ll serve as very good depth, and could provide the Eagles with another option at CB in 2015 if Fletcher’s or Williams’ long term standing with the team are in doubt.
Typical Jimmy. Trying to get a player thrown off the team.
Joking aside, that’s a good take. He’s right on the money with his evaluation of Carroll and also how he might fit into the team’s plans for the future.
As for this year, Carroll has played well enough that the coaches are going to a Dime defense look with him on the field. You have to wonder if it wasn’t for Carroll, would they be doing that? The NFL is still very much passing league. DBs don’t have to start to be key contributors. Carroll also provides depth. The Eagles struggled with Bradley Fletcher out of the lineup last year. Carroll will help that situation quite a bit.
Good news for Emmanuel Acho fans.
• Big day for Emmanuel Acho, who has become somewhat of a forgotten man after many thought he would make the final 53 roster last season. With the offense running plays from their own two yard line, Acho made a pair of big plays. On the first one, he darted through the line and if the Eagles were tackling in practice, Acho would have had himself a safety. On another play, Acho was once again able to get immediate penetration and blow up a play before GJ Kinne could hand off to the running back. Kinne then had to scramble just to get out of the end zone.
ILB Jake Knott will be suspended for the first 4 games of the year. The Eagles will get a roster exemption for him. That could be filled by Acho. The team has to carry 4 ILBs. Ryans, Kendricks and Goode are locks. Beyond that, it is a fluid situation. Knott is probably the #4 guy, but Acho could win that spot. The Eagles need someone to step up and show that they can be the #4 ILB. Acho made some plays today and needs to do more of that to help his cause.
Finally, a nice note on Nick Foles.
• Nick Foles is so calm in the pocket at times. There was a play in which the offense was backed up on their own two yard line, where they faked a run to the right, and Foles rolled left. Fletcher Cox had gotten free and was bearing down in Foles’ face. Foles stopped, calmly located an open receiver, and got the ball out quickly. To note, there is obviously no hitting the QB in practice, but I think a number of other QBs would have panicked in that situation and simply thrown the ball up for grabs rather than risk being sacked in the end zone for a safety. Foles didn’t have to fear being hit, but his poise was nevertheless impressive.
James Casey makes a grab and raises his arms for a touchdown. Then the tight ends work on double moves – selling the corner route before cutting it back in for the post. Tight ends coach Ted Williams keeps his eye on the players’ feet and makes sure they sell the first part of the route before hitting the post.
12:25 - During 7-on-7s, rookie Jaylen Watkins breaks up a pass. I didn’t notice him much in the spring, but he’s flashed the past couple of days.
1:15 - The Eagles’ offense starts off backed up at its own 2 during the team period. Cedric Thornton makes a nice play against the run on first down.
“Nice job!” yells defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. But even when he’s complimenting guys, he sounds angry.
Nick Foles gets Trent Cole to jump offsides. And when I say jump, I mean jump – as in leaping over the offensive line. Chip Kelly gets a laugh out of that one.
When the threes get up, Acho bursts into the backfield for a safety on a run play.
With the ones, Foles finds Arrelious Benn on a back shoulder throw against Williams.
Later, Williams delivers a forearm shimmy to Benn on a crossing route.
Jaylen Watkins has kind of flown under the radar this spring and summer. It will be interesting to see where he plays in the preseason game (slot vs outside) and if he is with the backups or the 3′s. Because of the starters, Bokin and Carroll, there isn’t a lot of pressure on Watkins to play right away. He might have a hard time even being active on gameday. For that to happen, he’ll need to really stand out on STs.
Funny note on Azz. I’m pretty sure he’s my favorite assistant. I wish the media could interview him more.
– Some readers have asked about second-year defensive end Joe Kruger this camp. He spent all of last season on Injured Reserve, which allowed him to pack on 20 lbs and get his shoulder healthy. I think he’s going to struggle to make the 53-man roster. I’ve watched three days of linemen one on ones and Kruger has had trouble getting push or past o-linemen. There are times when it’s clear the linemen are working on zone blocking techniques and maybe the effort isn’t 100 percent. The starters, whenever they’re matched up against each other, never seem to go all out. But the young guys do, as they should.
– Some other linemen observations: Alejandro Villanueva is a great story, but the transition to defensive end seems like it’s been a difficult one. The 6-foot-9 project looks too top heavy. He has a hard time holding his ground when a guard or tackle lines him up straight. Rookie nose tackle Beau Allen and defensive end Taylor Hart, on the other hand, have a strong base. Both look like legit NFL players, although I need to see more, particularly against other teams. I would be surprised if the late-round draft picks didn’t make the squad.
– You can see why the Eagles like Matt Tobin. They tried to get him to add about 10-15 pounds last offseason, but I’m not sure it stuck. He’s still listed at 290. He’s quick off the ball and seems to use his speed as leverage, much like Evan Mathis. He rocked Villanueva during one matchup, earning a smile and tap on the cap from offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Tobin is the most important backup OL right now. He played both LG and LT last summer. The Eagles need him to show that he can be an effective player if called upon in a real game. Pat Shurmur mentioned Dennis Kelly and Andrew Gardner as well, but my guess is that Tobin could be the top backup.
Kruger just turned 22 in early June so he is still very much a project. He might need a year on the practice squad so that he can develop and make a run at the roster in 2015. As a point of comparison, Taylor Hart is 23 1/2 years old. He played in more games in college and is just more NFL ready.
As for Villanueva, he was always going to be a long shot. He was mostly an offensive player at West Point. He’s been out of football for years and is trying to learn a new position. Think of him as this year’s Momah. You can’t be away from the game of football for multiple years and not be rusty.
You love to see this: Jason Kelce stayed after practice to work with Villanueva and a number of undrafted rookie offensive linemen.
Kelce is a terrific player. He also is quickly becoming an important team leader.
• Mark Sanchez targeted rookie undrafted rookie free agent tight end Trey Burton a number of times. I haven’t noticed Burton too often in camp but he stood out today. Now’s the part where I joke about Sanchez is cheating on favorite passing target: rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
• First play of 7-on-7: Nick Foles is intercepted on a short pass by safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins has had an excellent camp. He’s recorded at least three interceptions. Meanwhile, that was Foles’ third total interception in training camp. He’s thrown one on each of the last three practices. All of Foles picks have come on short throws.
• The third interception was the most impressive. Nolan Carroll made an incredible diving interception on a G.J. Kinne pass thrown to the left side of the field. Carroll dropped two other interceptions on Friday, both from Mark Sanchez passes. As I wrote earlier this week, Carroll has a real chance of stealing a starting cornerback job if he continues to play this well.
More love for Jenkins and Carroll. Always love to read about those guys.
Glad to read about Burton. He is an undersized athlete who the Eagles might want to develop at TE. I’m not sure he’ll make a strong push for a roster spot this year, but he could be ideal for the practice squad. Excited to see him in a game.
Jordan Matthews is the rookie getting the most attention this summer. The WR from Vanderbilt isn’t doing anything groundbreaking, but I think he caught people off guard with just how good he is. That’s funny when you think about it. He was the best WR at the Senior Bowl. He is the all-time leading receiver in SEC history. Matthews has great credentials. But he’s from Vandy. You just can’t help but have a bit of doubt when a WR comes from Vandy.
That doubt is gone. The question now is how good Matthews is. Are we looking at a solid starter or does he have star potential?
One of the biggest mistakes of the offseason: The other 31 teams letting Chip Kelly get ahold of Jordan Matthews. #Eagles cc: @PhilaDehlia
Jordan Matthews says he isn’t paying much attention to what is being said and written about him so far during training camp. He knows that buzz may only stick around for a news cycle before flying off to find its next host.
Rookie years in particular are filled with ups and downs. Today, for example, was a relatively quiet day for Matthews. Wednesday he was making plays all over the place. So it goes. The hype will swell and recede accordingly.
While it’s important not to get carried away, there’s no denying that he is making an impression early on in his time with the Eagles.
“Yes. A lot. A lot,” said LeSean McCoy, when asked if he’s been surprised by what Matthews has shown. “You don’t really get into it with the rookies, ‘Oh, who’s this?’ until you actually go out and watch them play. I’ve learned that from the older guys. That goes all the way back to[Brian]Westbrook, until those guys show you, OK, he can really play [you reserve judgment]. He’s showing it. His work ethic, he’s working like he’s a professional — a five, six-year, seven-year veteran. Sky is the limit for that kid, for sure.”
Michael Irvin is a believer. The Hall-of-Fame receiver spent the day at the NovaCare Complex, took in practice and spent time talking to various coaches and players, including Matthews.
“I like what I see out here. I like what I see physically as to body type, body size and everything. And then I like what I see internally as far as work ethic and most importantly, a strong desire to be the best,” Irvin told Birds 24/7 after practice. “He wants to garner all the information: ‘Mr Irvin, sir, whatever you see out here today, can you call me on it and talk to me about it? When you watch film can you tell me what you see?’ A young guy like that, man, that comes in with that perspective and those kind of thoughts, you can have some success with him.”
Does he compare to any specific receiver?
“He can be a combination of a few guys. You watch a big guy play the slot like a Marques Colston, he has that ability but he’s faster than Marques Colston. So now he gets outside he can probably do more things than a Colston can do. I look at him as a combination of a lot of good receivers in this league with an ability to be great.”
We are a ways away from that point, but it’s fair to say there is optimism internally. Pat Shurmur was describing what can make him a good slot receiver in this league, and mentioned his willingness to go over the middle and spacial awareness.
And then: “Once he catches the ball, he sets his hair on fire and runs,” said Shurmur. “If we didn’t have fences around here he’d run into the street. He’s one of the best finishers we have. He’s smart, he’s eager, he’s big, he can catch and he’s done a good job.”
Michael Irvin knows a thing or two about great receivers. Very interesting to hear his thoughts.
Reuben Frank also wrote a good piece on Matthews.
“It’s really easy to stay consistent,” Matthews said. “People who are inconsistent, that makes you average. If you’re good one day and bad the next day, you’re essentially going to ride that line of being average. But if you’re consistent each day, if you can stay up here [holds hands near head], you don’t even have to do anything extraordinary, you just got to stay right here.
“If you continue to play at that level, then you’re going to end up being great. So that’s all the older guys tell me. Jason Peters. Malcolm [Jenkins], I work a lot with Malcolm and talk to him and look to him for guidance because he’s actually going against me and sees me in competition each day, and he always says, ‘Stay consistent, stay consistent,’ so that’s something I’ve always tried to do.”
If Matthews sounds like a dream come true for his coaches, yeah, you’re right.
“He’s good against bump-and-run coverage,” Shurmur said. “His spacial awareness is good. There are different combination of things that can happen when you’re inside as opposed to outside. He kind of has a good feel for that.
“You’ve seen throughout camp he’s been able to get open and make plays. Then the other advantage is he’s young and he’s got courage, so he can run around in there and catch the ball with people around him. I think that’s important. He’s smart, he’s eager, he’s big, he can catch.”
Matthews is told of the high praise he’s been getting not just from Shurmur but from Nick Foles, from Chip Kelly, from anybody who’s asked about him.
“It’s good, but at the same time, that’s just who I’m trying to be each day,” he said. “If I can go out there and make my coaches proud, that’s huge, but at the end of the day, this is practice, that’s what I’m supposed to do. Supposed to come out here and give my best. Supposed to come out here and give my all.
“If they weren’t saying those things, I wouldn’t be taking care of my job. So it’s good, but at the same time, it’s the requirements. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Due to some injuries, Matthews got some snaps with the starters this week. He had a couple of drops and struggled to get open at times. There is always going to be an adjustment period when you face the starters and you’re not used to it. Matthews is working through that and getting better each day.
Expectations for this season are a bit simpler. Matthews is spending most of his time with the backups for now, but most feel that he will be the starting slot receiver before too long. If he can put up similar numbers to Jason Avant from last year, that would be a good rookie season. Avant was 38-447-2. That is 2.5 receptions per game. I feel comfortable that Matthews could post those type numbers in the Eagles offense.
I’m in wait and see mode in terms of how good he’ll be eventually. Heck, let’s at least see Matthews play in a preseason game or two. I am intrigued and excited by him. Sure sounds like the Eagles hit a home run with their 2nd round pick.
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